London - Although it has been nearly five years since the most deadly accident in the history of garment manufacturing took place - Rana Plaza - the need for brands and trade unions to take on the responsibility to improve the lives of millions of workers remains. A new report from the NYU Stren Centre for Business and Humans Rights concludes that “dangerous conditions” are still present in thousands of garment factories across Bangladesh, which is exactly why global labour organizations are demanding that all brands producing in Bangladesh sign the 2018 Transition Accord.
The 2018 Transition Accord is set to take over the work of the current Accord when it expires in May and aims to ensure that efforts to improve factory safety continues. At the moment the remediation progress rate across all covered Accord factories is 84 percent. The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was established in May 2013 as a direct response to the Rana Plaza building collapse, which took the lives of 1,134 garment workers. Over the past five years, factory inspections and worker training have made conditions significantly safer and the Transition Accord has been signed by 144 global brands, covering more than 1,300 factories and impacting the lives of approximately two million workers.
Global labour organizations demand all brands producing in Bangladesh sign the 2018 Transition Accord
Now the Clean Clothes Campaign, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and more are calling on all brands sourcing from Bangladesh which have not already done so to sign the Transition Accord and strengthen its reach. “Brands that don’t sign the 2018 Accord are getting a free ride from the brands that do, benefiting from being able to source from safer factories without contributing to the joint effort,” said IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary, Jenny Holdcroft in a statement. “Support for the Accord is critical while there is still no effective national regulatory body in place that can guarantee factory safety.”
222 fashion companies originally signed the Accord and the global labour organisations are asking these companies to renews their commitment to the programme as well by signing the Transition Accord. This includes companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Sainsbury’s and Gekas Ullared. The Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops and other allies are set to launch a day of action against Abercrombie & Fitch on 21 April, during which they will undertake online and street campaigning to encourage the retailer to sign.
“We are concerned to hear signals from Bangladesh that there is opposition to the Accord continuing its important work after May,” added UNI Global Union Deputy General Secretary, Christy Hoffman. “It is clear that for many major brands, the renewal of the Accord is essential to maintaining their business relationships in Bangladesh until the Accord work can be taken over by a credible national body.” The labour organisations are urging brands which never signed the Bangladesh Accord to sign the 2018 Accord as well and leave corporate-led initiatives behind, such as the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which also comes to an end soon. This includes apparel companies such as the VF Corporation, Gap, Walmart and New Yorker.
“The Rana Plaza collapse has shown that the traditional audits have failed workers and that in the absence of a credible and accountable alternative, the continuation of the legally-binding Accord is needed to prevent another disaster,” pointed out Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “This should be acknowledged by brands that have not yet renewed their commitment to the 2018 Transition Accord and those that were part of the Alliance and followed by immediate action to join the Accord.” The organisations are also keen to open the 2018 Accord to include factories of home textiles, knit and fabric accessories.
Ineke Zeldenrust, International Coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign, adds: “It is vital that existing plans to create an employment injury insurance system in Bangladesh are sped up, to ensure that if factory incidents do happen workers can count on a reliable system to provide them with compensation.”